EARNEST v. DIRECTOR, TDCJ-CID

Civil Action No. 1:14cv327.

RAY EARNEST v. DIRECTOR, TDCJ-CID.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Beaumont Division.

Editors Note
Applicable Law: 28 U.S.C. § 2254
Cause: 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (State)
Nature of Suit: 530 Habeas Corpus (General)
Source: PACER


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Ray Earnest, Petitioner, Pro Se.

Director TDCJ-CID, Respondent, represented by Jeffrey Stanley Garon , Office of the Attorney General - Administrative Law Division.


MEMORANDUM ORDER OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS AND ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

THAD HEARTFIELD, District Judge.

Petitioner Ray Earnest, an inmate confined at the Ney Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, proceeding pro se, brought this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

The court referred this matter to the Honorable Zack Hawthorn, United States Magistrate Judge, at Beaumont, Texas, for consideration pursuant to applicable laws and orders of this court. The Magistrate Judge recommends the petition be dismissed.

The court has received and considered the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge filed pursuant to such order, along with the record, pleadings and all available evidence. Petitioner filed objections to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation.

The court conducted a de novo review of the objections in relation to the pleadings and the applicable law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b). After careful consideration, the court concludes petitioner's objections should be overruled.

Federal habeas relief from a state court's determination is precluded "so long as fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011). A determination of a factual issue made by a state court shall be presumed to be correct upon federal habeas review of the same claim. The petitioner shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A decision is contrary to clearly established federal law if the state reaches a conclusion opposite to a decision reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). An application of clearly established federal law is unreasonable if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts. Id. State court decisions must be given the benefit of the doubt. Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010).

The question for federal review is not whether the state court decision was incorrect, but whether it was unreasonable, which is a substantially higher threshold. Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007). Federal courts look to the "last reasoned opinion" as the state court's "decision." Salts v. Epps, 676 F.3d 468, 479 (5th Cir. 2012). If a higher state court offered different grounds for its ruling than a lower court, then only the higher court's decision is reviewed." Id. "Where a state court's decision is unaccompanied by an explanation, the habeas petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief." Harrington, 526 U.S. at 98; see also Johnson v. Williams, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1091 (2013) (holding there is a rebuttable presumption that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits when the state court addresses some claims, but not others, in its opinion).

Federal courts are required to give great deference to a state court's factual findings. Hill v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 481, 485 (5th Cir. 2000). Section 2254(e)(1) provides that a determination of a factual issue made by a state court shall be presumed to be correct. This presumption of correctness applies to both explicit findings of fact and those findings of fact implicit in the state court's mixed law and fact conclusions. Valdez v. Cockrell, 274 F.3d 941, 948 n. 11 (5th Cir. 2001). The applicant has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Typically, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denies relief in a state habeas corpus application without written order, it is an adjudication on the merits that is entitled to this presumption. Singleton v. Johnson, 178 F.3d 381, 384 (5th Cir. 1999); Ex parte Torres, 943 S.W.2d 469, 472 (Tex.Crim.App. 1997).

Federal habeas courts are not an alternative forum for trying facts and issues which were insufficiently developed in state proceedings. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 437 (2000). Further, following the Supreme Court's decision in Cullen v. Pinholster, federal habeas review under 2254(d)(1) "is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

Here, for the reasons set forth in the Report, petitioner has failed to satisfy his burden of proof concerning the claims presented in this petition. Assuming, arguendo, that petitioner's Brady claim was exhausted as he claims, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the claim. This court finds petitioner has failed to overcome his burden regarding his claims. Petitioner has not shown, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), that the State court findings resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceedings. Accordingly, the petition should be denied.

Furthermore, petitioner is not entitled to the issuance of a certificate of appealability. An appeal from a judgment denying federal habeas corpus relief may not proceed unless a judge issues a certificate of appealability. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253; FED. R. APP. P. 22(b). The standard for granting a certificate of appealability, like that for granting a certificate of probable cause to appeal under prior law, requires the movant to make a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 483-84 (2000); Elizalde v. Dretke, 362 F.3d 323, 328 (5th Cir. 2004); see also Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 893 (1982). In making that substantial showing, the movant need not establish that he should prevail on the merits. Rather, he must demonstrate that the issues are subject to debate among jurists of reason, that a court could resolve the issues in a different manner, or that the questions presented are worthy of encouragement to proceed further. See Slack, 529 U.S. at 483-84. Any doubt regarding whether to grant a certificate of appealability is resolved in favor of the movant, and the severity of the penalty may be considered in making this determination. See Miller v. Johnson, 200 F.3d 274, 280-81 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 849 (2000).

Here, petitioner has not shown that any of the issues raised by his claims are subject to debate among jurists of reason. The factual and legal questions advanced by petitioner are not novel and have been consistently resolved adversely to his position. In addition, the questions presented are not worthy of encouragement to proceed further. Therefore, petitioner has failed to make a sufficient showing to merit the issuance of a certificate of appealability. Accordingly, a certificate of appealability shall not be issued.

ORDER

Accordingly, petitioner's objections are OVERRULED. The findings of fact and conclusions of law of the magistrate judge are correct and the report of the magistrate judge is ADOPTED. A final judgment will be entered in this case in accordance with the magistrate judge's recommendations.


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